Ooh, er, Missus, a flipping great tit

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

According to the TV programme, “animals do the funniest things”, but after last week I think birds are not far behind.

I have a ceramic pot gadget with several holes all round, which I hang up each year at this time and fill with dog combings, to help our feathered friends with their nest building.

One day I was watching a great tit from the kitchen window as it pulled strands of hair from a hole in the pot and gathered them in its beak. Some of the strands were particularly long and it had to lean really far backwards to release them. The hair from Tibbie’s tail is much longer than the rest and in its effort to pull some free the hapless bird leant too far back, lost its footing and did a backward somersault before hitting the ground, some six feet below. None the worse, it flew off with its harvest.

Sightings of otters (picture, top of page) seem to be on the increase after their numbers struggled for many years, when the mink invasion was at its peak. In one week alone recently, I had reports from the Tweed at Boleside and St Boswells and near Bemersyde Moss. Let’s hope they are back for good.

On a walk up my local patch of riverside recently, I couldn’t help noticing that the many colonies of sweet cicely were coming into flower. This is plant I can never pass without tearing off a piece of its soft leaf, crushing it between my fingers and smelling the delicious aniseed aroma. Grown commonly years ago as a herb, it has now escaped into the countryside and its culinary uses are much overlooked.

I was surprised to read recently that the flowers, leaves, roots and seeds are all edible, and it is so sweet that it can be used as a sugar substitute if you are trying to slim. The leaves can be used to make custard and the seeds pack the biggest flavour punch and can be used as after-dinner sweeties.

Apparently it is hard to find in garden centres, which is not surprising as here in the Borders it can be quite a troublesome weed, which seeds freely and has huge long tap roots which are hard to pull up. I am quite happy to leave it where it is as I have enough trouble with ground elder in my garden without introducing anything else!